Odd Sports with Hank Baron: Cardboard Tube Dueling

Like any man over the age of 26, I assumed that my days in cardboard tube fighting were long gone. The last time I was in a fiberboard imbroglio was at the ripe old age of 11. My cousin and I practically lived at our grandmother’s house that summer. That year, the powers that be were well underway building houses on the expanse of land behind my grandparents’ yard.

Apart from pushing back the boundary between us and the natives—i.e. wasps, mosquitoes, spiders, and all manner of strange Floridian creatures like Marco Rubio—this left us with a lot of discarded construction material to play around with. We built a treehouse out of leftover dry wall that was both bad and ass, but nowhere near bad-ass. Our corrugated kingdom also yielded tons of cardboard tubes, and . . . well, once you get past using them as telescopes for two minutes, there’s not much to add up, is there? Our cardboard tube fights were arguably less dangerous than fighting with stainless steel tent poles and less nerdy than the hours we spent drafting bylaws for our treehouse as a way to legitimately keep my sister out of there (for the record, this didn’t work).

What the hell, it kept us busy outdoors. Street Fighter II Turbo Edition was released that year; staying out of the house was no easy feat.

But that was long ago. My childhood dreams of becoming a paperboard paladin were crushed under the weight of other childhood dreams that were crushed by the demands of adulthood and a penchant for gin.

Until today, when I uncovered the Cardboard Tube Fighting League. Upon heading over to their web site, I was immediately impressed by their Skull and Cross-tubes logo. (In the unending battle of Ninjas v. Pirates I side with the Ninja, but retain a deep scumbag respect for pirates. In turn, their motto—Training elite militias of cardboard tube wielding ninjas—as well as the many references to our favorite feudal mercenaries tells me their respect for the ninja is reciprocated.)

According to the CTFL site and non-academics, our forefathers resolved their grievances either via cardboard duel or declaring war on the British.

Like many of the odd sports I’ve covered, this one was established in the recent past. According to The Oracle, a Seattle man by the name of Robert Easley was haunted by nightmarish flashbacks of the cardboard tube fights of his childhood. But whereas I required many years of therapy for this, Easley took another less costly route and formalized the sport.

One doesn’t have to read the CTFL’s site’s treatise on the history of cardboard tube fighting to see Easley had a greater goal in mind, though, and it’s one that I can thoroughly appreciate: life’s too short to be serious all the goddamn time.

However, there are rules to this game, the cardinal one being a simple one: don’t break your tube. In fact, all you have to remember is that the tube is your best friend. It is your life. You must master your tube as you master your life.

Oh, and no stabbing.

There are two kinds of games, Battles and Tournaments. In Battles, contestants are assigned teams with a magic marker, thrown into a field, and allowed to whale on each other until something happens.

Tournaments are a more structured affair with five rounds and 48 participants taking part in one-on-one battles until we whittle down to the sole victor. (Get your brackets ready.)

While in town testifying to Congress, CEO Tony Stark takes time out of his busy schedule to play, but is immediately ejected from the game after vaporizing a five year old with his uni-beam. No charges have been filed.

To date, there are five active branches today: three in the U.S. (Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.), one in the UK, and another in Australia.

In 2007, Easley told the San Francisco Chronicle “I’ve got a petition here to make cardboard tube fighting an Olympic sport.” I haven’t been able to locate the existence of a petition or how far a drive could have gone, but I’ll tell you this: if I ever find myself out West in time for an event, you can bet I’ll be in the front of the line signing up for this thing. It’s the only way I’ll get to fulfill another dream of mine: beating up small children.

Cardboard Tube Fighting League website: www.tubeduel.com

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